Letter of the month

Limiting factor

The Japanese Grand Prix accident involving Jules Bianchi has raised many suggestions, ranging from stricter flag-waving to closed cockpits. The latter option, I believe, has its own dangers, particularly with regard to removing an injured driver from his car.

The solution appears, to me at least, to be simple. We see teams fret over the ‘risk of a safety car’, often rightly when their lead is wiped out due to someone else’s incident, and the safety car can certainly ruin a driver’s race.

Why does the FIA not simply enforce the pit speed limiter through the accident-affected sector of the track? As the driver enters this area, he clicks on the limiter and it goes off as he crosses the line at the sector’s end. Each driver does this in turn, so nobody gains an advantage, nor loses any lead they’ve built up. This would use existing car systems and, with telemetry from all cars being broadcast to the FIA, policing is easy.

As an added bonus, this would also eliminate post-safety car standing restarts being brought into force.

John Sorrie, Inverurie, Aberdeenshire

Peguignet Manufacture
The writer wins this Pequignet Gents Moorea Ranelagh model in stainless steel with an automatic movement, anthracite dial with date, worth £835.

A time for calm

At the risk of sounding like a dinosaur, I am beginning to get annoyed by the reaction of some F1 drivers to the accident that befell Jules Bianchi. I am extremely sorry when any driver is injured but, as it says on the ticket, motor racing is dangerous. It remains impossible to legislate for all eventualities. Bianchi was unlucky, but danger is a concomitant of racing. We need to find a calm way of working towards risk reduction.

David Fisher, Sutton in Ashfield, Notts

Crème de la Kremlin?

I was slightly amused to see Vladimir Putin presenting the trophies at the recent Russian GP. How did that happen? But then sport is a great moderator and has always been so. Sport could also be interpreted as ‘war by the book’ – a safety valve that allows aggressive tendencies to be released on the pitch or on the track.

We all know that Bernie can charm birds from the trees. He can certainly pull strings to ensure that the F1 circus continues to flourish and exploit parts of the world where other people, politicians mainly, cannot even dream of setting foot. He has come in for some serious criticism over organising races in countries where the regimes could be describes as less than reasonable. But like all good leaders, he knows that the best way to keep tabs on one’s adversaries is to keep them close.

That F1 has flourished under Bernie is not in doubt. Sport at the highest level can never be completely apolitical. Have our political leaders missed a trick here, by not engaging Mr Ecclestone and his ability to coerce world leaders to perform as actors in his elaborate fortnightly productions? Will we see F1 in Iraq or on the West Bank? Discuss.

Steve Taylor, Stonehouse, Glos

Learn something new

May I thank you through the pages of your magazine for filling in a small piece of my family’s history.

My mother fled Constantinople by boat as a girl during the slaughter of the Armenians, eventually arriving in Egypt where her family reunited in Cairo.

She spoke some seven languages fluently including a delightfully accented, very correct English.

On asking her how she had come to speak so many she said English was really the last to learn and that she was instructed by the teachers who had taught the daughters of King Farouk.

I now know their names: Mr and Mrs Williams, the parents of Jonathan.

Wonderful magazine, read avidly every month.

Peter Buckleigh, Auckland, New Zealand

The Rockford files (repeat)

It was a pleasant surprise to read all the information about James Garner following his untimely death. I knew Mr Garner not from TV or cinema, but through his efforts in off-road racing. As well as the Baja California races, he also competed in the Parker (Arizona) 400. He once competed in a race-prepped VW Type 181 ‘Thing’ with 2180cc engine. He and I discussed this car, and he was very proud of it.

When I didn’t see him any more it was rumoured that his studio bosses thought his off-road exploits were a bit dangerous, so he quit. But as has been said he was a great person and a fine driver. It was and is a pleasure to have called him a friend.

Samuel W Wilshire Jr, Spring Valley, USA

May the force be with you

The retrospective article about the 1954 French GP (October) refers to “the Wehrmacht, the Luftwaffe and the Kriegsmarine”, whereas it should have referred to just “the Wehrmacht”. This is the name given to the German armed forces for the majority of the duration of the Hitler regime (1935-45), comprising the Heer (army), Luftwaffe (air force) and the Kriegsmarine (navy). The predecessor to the Wehrmacht was established under the Treaty of Versailles, being the Reichsheer (army) and Reichmarine (navy)

M J Crawford, Wotton-under-Edge, Glos

A fine vintage

I gave the 2014 Goodwood Revival Meeting a miss. In recent years I have found it a struggle coping with vast crowds and terrible car park queues. Last year, despite leaving London at 6am, I queued for more than an hour – quite stressful in a classic car.

This time I went to the Duxford air show and, in late September, headed to the Snetterton VSCC meeting. The quality of the parked cars was just as interesting as Goodwood – everything from vintage Bentleys to an ex-works Mini Cooper rally car. There was free access to the paddock – I watched several races from the pit wall and can’t remember the last time I did that. The racing was excellent and the crowd very comfortable. The cost? £14.

Richard Boughton, Norwich, Norfolk

Period realism

I attended the first Goodwood Revival in 1998 and then every year from 2004. Over the years I have seen it morph from its rather innocent start to the commercial entity we have now. Not all changes have been for the good.

The market stalls inside the circuit and the shopping street are of interest, while the Pre-66 car park is fantastic. On the other hand, Earls Court is a dodge to circumvent the Pre-66 rule and allow car manufacturers to promote their current models.

The commemoration of WWII seems a little more strained each year. Yes, the circuit grew out of a WWII airfield, but the tribute seems at odds with a race meeting that is trying to recreate 1948-1966. At first, the dress code was a charming way of recreating a period feel. Now the Revival has become a fancy dress party... and contemporary photos show that people wore fairly drab clothing, suitable for a windswept former airfield.

Maybe it is time for the Goodwood team to take a long look at its direction, before it turns from Revival to parody.

Douglas Kent, Edinburgh

Remembering Stefan

I’ve just been listening to your Derek Bell podcast and his reference to Stefan Bellof was particularly interesting, especially his comments about Stefan not being controlled by those around him. At that time I was closely involved with Tyrrell and Ken and I were friends. We went to Silverstone in 1983 to watch Stefan, whom neither of us knew. His performance was outstanding and we discussed the possibility of his joining Tyrrell for 1984. His mentor was Willy Maurer, whose dour outlook on life was fortunately not infectious.

Stefan joined Tyrrell in 1984 but, despite Ken’s efforts to restrict his activities to F1 and a bit more, Maurer advised him to remain with Rothmans Porsche as well. Ken and I met with Stefan over the following winter and convinced him to stay with Tyrrell. Despite our efforts to dissuade him, however, he insisted on continuing to drive for Porsche. We decided it was better to keep him on those terms than not to have him at all.

When we learned that he had been killed at Spa, it was a very bad time for all of us – and particularly Ken. He really believed Stefan was an exceptional talent, the like of which he had not seen for some time.

David McErlain, Neuchatel, Switzerland

Bourne free

For those who aren’t concerned by the sound of the latest Formula 1 cars, can I suggest listening to Nick Mason’s recording of the 1950s BRM V16 on full song?

Anthony Horan, Campbelltown, Australia

Fast facts and figures

It was good to read Damien Smith’s drag racing comments following his recent visit to Santa Pod.

I was at the same meeting and, as he wrote, figures on the page don’t really do the meeting justice. When a Top Fuel car launches, it is already doing 70mph by the time its rear wheels cross the starting line.

Burning two gallons of fuel per second, it assaults the senses, both physical and common, and becomes borderline painful for the chest. If an F1 car crossed the start at 200mph at the same time, it would still be beaten to the finishing line.

Go see!

John Dickson, Wrotham Heath, Kent

A very sad loss

It was with sadness that we learned of Andrea de Cesaris’s untimely passing. He was an inspiration when we were growing up and, on the occasions we were privileged to meet him, we found him the kindest of men.

He was fast, yes, but also had mechanical sympathy and dedication that were sometimes overlooked. RIP Andrea, and thank you.

Jamie Willis, Southampton,
Jim Holder, London

Ruffled feathers

I am somewhat surprised to read that there is any controversy remaining over the origin and true meaning of the Chaparral name, as I thought that this had been well documented.

I lived most of my life in England and followed the golden age of Can-Am racing avidly in Motoring News and Autosport. While I was immensely proud of the British Commonwealth, in the form of the Bruce and Denny Show, socking it to the Americans on their home turf, my heart was always with Jim Hall and his fabulous Chaparrals, even though they never quite lived up to their promise. I cheered when the Chaparral 2D won at the Nürburgring in 1966 and was thrilled to be at Brands Hatch to witness Phil Hill and Mike Spence vanquishing the Porsche and Ferrari works teams in their 2F in the 1967 BOAC 500. I still wish I’d made it to the Targa Florio to see the same car scything the low-hanging branches from the roadside trees as it flew through the Sicilian countryside.

Back to the name, though. Richard Falconer removes any doubt on page 25 of his authoritative book, The Complete History of Jim Hall’s Chaparral Race Cars 1961-1970. I quote Richard quoting Jim Hall, who ought to know.

“At that point, Hap Sharp was not part of it at all, but I was at a little polo field talking to him about a name and one of his handlers, a Mexican-American, said ‘Well, call it a Chaparral – a road runner’. I think that’s where it came from. I thought ‘Well, that’s original, let’s do it’.” To clear up any further doubt, the text appears above a photograph of the car’s nose badge, which features a road-runner at speed.

There is not a bush to be seen.

Peter Butler, Atlanta, Georgia, USA

Make it a date

I would like to draw readers’ attention to a new project that is being launched in a good cause.

For the past five years I have suffered with malignant melanoma and set out to create a motor sport calendar that helps raise funds for Melanoma UK (www.melanomauk.org.uk), which helps sufferers and also raises awareness.

I would like to thank the motor sport community for assisting with this project, which took more than a year to complete. We’ve been all over the UK shooting at different circuits and factories and have received overwhelming support from the industry as a whole, from Formula 1 downwards.

Calendars can be ordered from www.melanomauk.org.uk/donations or www.andrea-pennington.com/#!marshal-charity-calendar-2015/c98f.

It will be delivered in time for Christmas and costs £10.00 (including post & packing in the UK). All proceeds will go to the charity.

Paul Sutcliffe, British Motorsport Marshals Club, Oldham